JOHANNESBURG – Health authorities in South Africa predict there could be as many as 50,000 deaths and 3.6 million COVID-19 cases between now and November as a worst-case scenario.
South Africa is Africa’s worst-affected nation to date.
The predictive models presented to the country’s health ministry and several expert groups via videoconference Thursday suggest the peak of infections will arrive between July and August, by which time they forecast a million cases by that time.
The predictions, although not certain, offer a gloomy picture for a nation that has been under strict confinement measures since the end of March.
The model suggests the ICU will be over capacity by June – there are an estimated 3,000 beds for the country’s 58 million inhabitants, one of the best ratios on the continent – and that during the peak demand will be tenfold capacity.
There could be as many as 14 million coronavirus cases by November, the model suggested, although almost 74% would be asymptomatic or not detected by authorities. The forecast said that 3.6 million of those cases would be detected.
As of Thursday, South Africa has documented 19,137 cases and 369 deaths. It has the most advanced outbreak on the African continent.
Despite the trough restrictions placed on the country in a bid to stem the spread of the virus, the slow de-escalation of the lockdown and the strategy of mass testing, South Africa is experiencing an escalation in cases, with around 1,000 detected each day. Cape Province, home of Cape Town, a temperate region that is now entering winter, has become one of the national hotspots.
Africa in general is not seeing the explosive growth of coronavirus cases seen in Europe and the United States thanks to sweeping and quick responses from governments aware of the fragility of their health care systems.
South Africa is followed by Egypt in terms of coronavirus cases on the continent. The North African country has registered 14,200 and 680 deaths. Algeria, Morocco and Nigeria follow with around 7,000 cases each.
There were roughly 95,000 confirmed cases in Africa as of May 20, including 3,000 deaths.